Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 10 > Issue 1

Senate Gate-Keeping, Presidential Staffing of "Inferior Offices," and the Ideological Composition of Appointments to the Public Bureaucracy

Adam Bonica, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, USA, bonica@stanford.edu , Chen Jowei, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, USA, jowei@umich.edu , Johnson Tim, Center for Governance and Public Policy Research, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University, USA, tjohnson@williamette.edu
Suggested Citation
Adam Bonica, Chen Jowei and Johnson Tim (2015), "Senate Gate-Keeping, Presidential Staffing of "Inferior Offices," and the Ideological Composition of Appointments to the Public Bureaucracy", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 10: No. 1, pp 5-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00012085

Publication Date: 20 May 2015
© 2015 A. Bonica, J. Chen and T. Johnson
Ideal Point EstimationPersonnel Decision Making


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In this article:
1. The Appointment of Public Bureaucrats 
2. A Formal Model of Bureaucratic Appointment 
3. Empirically Testing the Model of Bureaucratic Appointment: Data and Methods 
4. Empirical Results 
5. Discussion and Conclusion 


Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives both the Senate and the President a role in the appointment of public bureaucrats. Yet, since the drafting of that constitutional passage, changes within the Senate and Executive have created new ways for officials to influence who gets appointed to the public bureaucracy. The Senate has developed intricate vetting procedures within its committees, while the Executive Branch has created new methods — such as the Schedule C designation — to facilitate the unilateral staffing of "inferior offices." To what extent do these institutional changes affect the ideological composition of appointments to the public bureaucracy? Our formal theory predicts that the investigative procedures of Senate committees allow chairs to block ideologically disparate nominations, thus compelling presidents to nominate moderates to Senate-confirmed post while placing extremists in Schedule C positions. Empirical analyses support these predictions: the probability of Senate confirmation declines with a nominee's ideological distance from the relevant committee chair and Schedule C appointees exhibit greater ideological extremism than Senate-confirmed appointees. These findings reveal how modern, institutional modifications of Article II Section 2 influence both the ideological composition of appointed federal bureaucrats and the struggle for power between branches of the U.S. federal government.